Yakugara is a term from the Japanese Kabuki theatre tradition. Over the centuries since Kabuki first emerged, it has focused on being “more than mere realism,” quoting from the website “Invitation to Kabuki.” It is a stylized form of theatre, performed with men playing both male and female roles.
Yakugara refers to the strictly defined “types” in the allowable characterizations of traditional Kabuki. Western theatre, of course, also employs stock characters at times, roles that adhere to a stereotype. Kabuki develops the idea of stock characters to the utmost degree.
But what does this have to do with writing?
There are certainly stock characters to be found in abundance in literature, including children’s literature. The villain, the bully, the snobby rich kid. It is easy to see such stereotypes in most books.
When writing, one needs to ask oneself, “Do I want to follow the yakugara way, and have this character be the typical sort of bully or snob?” Perhaps, at least once in a while, it would be good to stand the stereotype on its head a bit. Perhaps the snob is that way because of some difficulty in her life that makes her put up a wall around her. Perhaps the bully began as a timid child who was told “fight for yourself,” “don’t let anybody stand in your way,” and took it too far.
Instead of being content with the stock characters, give them some depth, a bit of a twist. Your readers will thank you.
What are your thoughts about stock characters in books or plays?